Voters are used to symbols and a change in allegiance can lead to confusion

Constituency watch: Kerala

The grassroots political worker alone knows the importance of the symbol in an election. It is a well-known fact that a large segment of voters of the communist parties and the Congress look at the symbol rather than the candidate’s profile.

With the two major coalitions either strategically fielding Independents or giving up traditional seats for a coalition partner to contest, it is left to the political foot soldier to sell not only the candidate but also his symbol.

Take the case of the Socialist Janata (Democratic)’s M.P. Veerendrakumar, who is contesting the Palakkad Lok Sabha seat. His party is a constituent of the United Democratic Front. But since it is not a recognised party, the Election Commission has allotted “ring” as its symbol.

“We spent the first round introducing the candidate. Half our job was done because Mr. Veerendrakumar is a known political leader. The second round now is becoming tougher. Our problem is that the Congress has always contested here. Therefore, our voters, especially in the rural Assembly segments, will search for the traditional “hand” symbol of the Congress,” a senior district leader said.

Congress workers are facing another problem with symbols in the Kollam Lok Sabha seat allotted to the Revolutionary Socialist Party, a recent entrant to the UDF, which has fielded N.K. Premachandran.

The Election Commission has allotted the party its traditional “spade and stoker” symbol.

The RSP had fought the Congress in the Lok Sabha seat several times in the past as part of the LDF and had been a persistent opponent in some of the Assembly segments.

The problem the Congress worker faces in this constituency is how to convince the electorate that the symbol is that of a friend and not a foe.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which has fielded five Independents, does not face many problems with regard to selling their election symbol in some of the Lok Sabha seats.

In Ernakulam, where former bureaucrat Christy Fernandez is contesting as an LDF independent, the CPI(M) and LDF workers do not have much issues as the coalition has experimented with Independents here several times in the past.

Mr. Fernandez has got “television” as symbol, which had been earlier allotted to former MP Sebastian Paul.

In Chalakudy, the LDF appears to be better placed with actor Innocent’s election symbol “pot”, as some of the constituencies of Chalakudy were part of the erstwhile Mukundapuram from where the CPI(M) had fielded Lonappan Nambadan as an Independent.

But there could be some difficulty in selling its candidate’s symbol in Idukki, where the LDF has fielded Joice George of the High Range Protection Committee, which fought against the Kasturirangan panel recommendations. The EC has allotted “torch” as Mr. George’s symbol.

In Pathanamthitta, LDF candidate Peelipose Thomas, with “autorickshaw” as symbol, will have to work out strategies like some of his counterparts contesting elsewhere.

In Ponnani, LDF candidate V. Abdu Rahman has got the symbol “cup and saucer”.

“Well, most political parties have its own methods of overcoming this problem. With the advent of electronic voting machine and the presence of several namesakes in the fray, the symbol becomes important,” a CPI(M) worker said.

Bike rallies by youth wings, road shows with focus on the symbol, and house visits by squads with the exclusive brief to promote the symbol are some of the strategies the parties may adopt.

“Even though the campaign time is short, we are confident of executing our task successfully,” a Congress leader here said.

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